Pioneer Valley League football pumps up preseason

Old foe Mesa Verde come calling
By: Mike Ray/Gold Country News Service
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Practices for Pioneer Valley League football squads open up Aug. 6. Only two schools in the PVL – Colfax and Foothill – have opted to play “zero week” games on Aug. 24, with the remaining four schools beginning play on Aug. 31. Taking a look at the 2012 schedules for PVL teams, there are some new preseason matchups for each league school that always makes the non-league schedule a little more intriguing. Lincoln Fighting Zebras Lincoln picked up old Golden Empire League rival Mesa Verde for a Sept. 21 non-league contest. The Fighting Zebras were 2-8 in 2011 with wins over Natomas (33-6) and Foothill (55-17). The Mavericks were 4-6 last season with victories over San Juan (41-7), West Campus (42-0), Capital Christian (35-12) and Lindhurst (31-21). The Zebras said farewell to top talents like running back Isaac Allen, quarterback Jake Gomez and linemen Jordan Alberron and Marty Morris, just to name a few. Head coach Ken Lowe should get some fine talent from last year’s junior varsity squad to help fill those cleats, a club that finished 5-5 with victories over Wheatland (28-7), Argonaut (12-0), Foothill (24-0), Placer (20-14) and Center (30-6). Bear River Bruins Bear River and Colfax will be playing two identical non-league foes – Woodland and Union Mine. The Bruins take on the Wolves of Woodland Sept. 7 and Union Mine in their season opener at Lake of the Pines The Bruins also have an intriguing non-league, preseason finale when they travel to the Santa Cruz Mountains to play Scotts Valley in a Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 28, a week before they come to Colfax to open PVL play on Oct. 5. Bear River finished fourth in the PVL last year with a 7-4 record overall. Center Cougars Center (5-6, 3-2 league) was third in the PVL and has also picked up a pair of new opponents in River Valley of Yuba City on Sept. 7 and Vanden on Sept. 28. River Valley’s Falcons were 4-6 in 2011 and graduated about 50 percent of their 55-man roster. Vanden’s Vikings were 7-4 making it into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs. Colfax Falcons Last year’s PVL champions (11-1, 5-0)) will face two “new” foes this preseason. On Aug. 24, when the Falcons travel to Jackson to take on Argonaut, it will mark the first time since 1970 the Falcons have played in Amador County and the first time since the ‘60s they played a school in Jackson. In 1963, Glenn Poole’s Falcons defeated Jackson 28-7. Jackson returned the favor by defeating Tom Middleton’s 1966 squad, 28-12. Colfax’s other first-time opponent will be Woodland on Sept. 14, the Falcons’ home opener. In a sign of changing times, Colfax will be playing a Wolves’ team that at one time was a Sacramento Division I power. Foothill Mustangs Foothill will be looking to improve on their 3-7 season and especially their 0-5 record in league. To get ready for the 2012 campaign, the Mustangs have scheduled two new foes – Davis on Aug. 31 and Sacramento High on Sept. 7. Foothill handed diplomas to most of its offensive and defensive linemen losing 18 of their 33-man squad. The Davis Blue Devils struggled in 2011 going 2-7 and were winless in the Delta Valley League. The Dragons of Sacramento lost to Davis (28-12) but finished 6-1 in the Metropolitan League and made it into the playoffs where Del Oro derailed them 42-0. Placer Hillmen Placer, perhaps this year’s prohibitive favorite in the PVL, also has an intriguing slate. The Hillmen (9-3, 4-1) open at Central Catholic in Modesto. Central is being touted as an early favorite to win this year’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Division IV section title. The Hillmen then play Foothill of Palo Cedro and the North Section at the “Smackdown at Sactown” showcase at Oak Ridge on Sept. 7. Placer will also renew an old Sierra Foothill League rivalry when they host Yuba City on Sept. 21. Max Preps has picked the Hillmen as their No.13 ranked team in the Sac-Joaquin Section preseason poll. No other PVL team made the top 25. Part of Placer’s appeal is 6-foot, 4-inch, 303-pound defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. The USC-bound Vanderdoes was one of the country’s most sought-after prospects in NCAA Division I football. However, Vanderdoes couldn’t prevent losses to Casa Roble (61-58), Colfax (41-28) and Del Oro (41-12) in the playoffs last year. It is fitting the Pioneer Valley League would step up its preseason competition as the league’s status grows. Great athletes graduate each year, but great programs and great traditions are built one year at a time. This should be a great year for the PVL.